"The timorous may stay at home."
~ Murphy v. Steeplechase Amusement Co., 250 N.Y. 479, 483 (N.Y. 1929)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Injured Reserve

I hate it when cliches are true: one moment, you feel like you are on top of the world, and the next - things coming crashing down. And you sit and struggle with "why me" and kick and scream and fight, thinking timing is never fair.

Such is my life right now. I've been mum on this subject as of late, laying low on social media, hoping/thinking things would resolve, ashamed to admit what I hate to admit to myself: I'm hurt.

As someone who has been fortunately injury-free for a long time, it's been devastating. Compound that with my calf injury pre-Spartan World Championships, I've been hesitant to let people know about the injury for fear of what other people think (I'll call it "FOWOPT." Deal with it). But you can only go so hard for so long until something has to give. And it gave, at a horrible time (admittedly, there is never a "good" time).

About a month ago, I pulled out of the Omaha Spartan Sprint 10 minutes before the Elite heats started after being seized by hip pain and debilitating sciatica. Since then, it's been a month-long endeavor in pinpointing the cause and battling ever-present nerve pain. All signs point to some combination of pelvic misalignment, SI joint, and piriformis issues (back is cool, ohthankyouJesus). Some days I wake up fine, other days every step sends shooting pains down my legs into my feet (and the leg choice seems to rotate). X-rays, MRIs, ART, countless physical therapy sessions later, I'm making steady progress thanks to a combination of incredibly boring, seemingly wussy strengthening exercises and enduring torturous weekly sessions of my hips and legs being abused by dry needles. In fact, I was pretty confident about my WTM prospects until I suffered a flare up this past weekend, and I'm back to nowhere close to 100%. I've managed a few 2 or 3 mile runs, only to be stopped short by seizing pain or a completely numb leg. On the bright side, I'm learning how better "not to drown." (hot damn, swimming is HARD. And boring. I have utmost respect for all you swimmers out there).

I'm blaming the article title for jinxing me
Oh, the irony: the so-called "Queen of Pain" is now in immense pain.  Amelia Boone is now crippled from the simple act of sitting at her desk for 10 hours a day or walking 2 miles to work.

So while I'm currently going stir crazy not being able to train, "that one big race" looms in a week. Where I am supposed to "defend my title" and "win it all." And nothing drives me to tears right now more than the thought of not being able to compete.

I've blogged before about the special place World's Toughest Mudder has in my heart: it's the race that started it all (or, the race that ruined it all). In 2011, it was a community of less than 1,000 of us with no idea what we were getting into. And the thought of not being out there again, mostly with these people, just kills me. Despite how much I bemoan what a miserable race it is, how it's a battle in fighting off hypothermia and boredom, I can't deny that I love this race.

So what do I do? All signs point to "sit out." Aside from the fact that I could risk setting myself back even further in my recovery, my training has been severely limited (hello Airdyne sprints!), I'm in pain, and I'm obviously not 100% - making "defending my title" a Herculean task right now.

I wish I could just go out to WTM, run a few laps for "fun," and be fine with that. But as someone reminded me the other day, I don't have that luxury, because "people expect me to win." In other words, "if I'm not going out to win, it's not worth going out at all."

2011: the days when it was all "fun"
(oh, blissful naivete)
HOLD UP - it's not? With that comment, it really hit me: this is not what I signed up for when I got into this a few years ago. What happened to to obstacle racing being a stress release for me? Of being a hobby, a pastime, a fun outlet? I suppose that all went out the window when I started winning. Somewhere along the way, amidst sponsorship offers, magazine articles, and documentaries, I lost myself. (or, to quote Macklemore - "lost the compass where self is"). 

I started racing because I loved the sport. And I still race because I love the sport. As I've said before, I'm not a professional and I have no plans to make this my sole occupation. I've struggled to reconcile the pressure of winning and of people's expectations with going out there and having fun, regardless of how I do. Suddenly, winning becomes an expectation, whether I want it to or not.

But as long as I love the sport, why should it matter?

I keep praying for a miracle in the next week. Of going out on race day, feeling fine, and breezing through without pain (well, aside from the crippling pain of running 90+ miles). But you can't fake 24 hours. And you certainly can't fake it when even a few miles wreaks havoc on your body right now. While I'm chomping at the bit to get out there and tear up a course, I also have to listen to my body telling me there is something seriously "off." That the entire left side of your body going numb isn't "normal." And as frustrated as I am that the doctors can't exactly pinpoint a cause, that rehab isn't coming as fast as I want it, ignoring the reality isn't a sound "recovery strategy." And when I started PT after Omaha, doctors and physical therapists warned me that, try as I might, WTM didn't look good. Granted, I've never been one to listen to doctors.

So I can't tell you what I'm going to do come next Saturday in Englishtown, New Jersey (though the new race format looks AMAZING. So awesome). For now, it's a day-to-day struggle. More than anything, I want to run. Whether that can be competitively, I don't know. But I don't feel like there should be any shame in that.

Regardless of whether I'm out there or not, I know I'll be back to healthy very soon, smarter and stronger. We all know there is nothing more frustrated than watching from the sidelines. You can't keep me down for long: a new race season awaits.

(Yes, I know this song is about addiction and relapse. No, don't take it literally. It's a fantastic song.)


  1. There are so many things that I want to say, but I think it is better to say only "Make the decision that is best for your future....whatever you want it to be". Godspeed.

  2. Mixed feelings :/ Was so excited to see you compete again at WTM, I am a huge fan. Ultimately its your body and you know better than anyone when it is time to draw the line. I am a chiropractor and have seen many patients with this problem that are no where near in the physical shape you are in and I know how painful this condition can be. You mentioned a lot of treatments but you didnt say anything about going to a chiropractor. Have you considered it? Id suggest you look at the American Chiropractic Board of Sports Physicians for one in your area or if you want a nice New England extended vacation you can come see me ;) I think you should be saying F-WOPT and focus on your health. Hope to see you 100% again soon. Stay Strong!!!

  3. Oh, this is gut-wrenching. Your personal take on full body betrayal is eloquent and poignant. Had hoped to meet you in New Jersey next week, but like most of us, would rather see you rest up, mend, and come back stronger.

  4. Let me start by saying, "Stop being such a candy-ass, and get out there and defend your title!!!" :-) But seriously, I've only very recently come across this blog and I want to tell you that you are one of the most remarkable individuals I've read about in a long time. You are clearly intelligent enough to know that a life spent seeking the approbation of others is a life spent in fruitless endeavor. From what I've read in these pages, you compete not for the accolades or recognition, but for the sheer joy of it all. You run because you love the commununion with yourself as well as the communion with those around you. If you were to compete in your current compromised state, you would rob yourself of that joy. WIthout that joy, there is no point to it all. So rest up, and get your body right. The rest will fall into place. Good luck and thanks for being awesome.

  5. This is the most painful story to read about someone I don't even personally know. I followed your progress through the race last year devotedly the entire night. Watching as the updates came over chat-rooms, twitter posts, and even the painfully slow mudder nation posts. I couldn't sleep all night as I kept peeking at the standings and messages watching where you and Pak were as you kept on without a break. Somewhere in that weekend I found my passion for this sport. I had run less than 5 OCR's and never ran more than 25 miles in a week but I was set to change entirely and commit to something much bigger than I've ever undertaken so I could run with you and the other Elites at WTM 2013.

    I've completed my training for this year and with a week to go I'm into my taper feeling stronger, healthier, and happier than ever. As with you this became my stress relief and my personal way to handle depression. I picked up a few injuries along the way that have plagued me with fears and doubts, and I have to make a very real decision after this race about going in for surgery to correct one, but there's nothing I can do to stop myself from joining the collective of people this next weekend.

    You've been a strong inspiration to me, and as much as I'd love to hand you a pint of Jeni's ice cream next Saturday in person to say thanks for everything you never knew you did for me, you have to do what you need to do for yourself. Even if you just came out to the event to watch and join the crowds, I'd be just as impressed to have you sign my bib as I would be to get to help you over a Berlin wall at 4am.

    Don't let this issue, no matter how big or small it ends up being, hinder your happiness with both these events and the people that run them. It's a close group of friends that cares about each other like no other sport out there. Even if you don't compete this year, you are still one of the very few Worlds Toughest Mudder champions and obviously impacted people like myself for the better.

  6. We're gonna have a damn good time anyway.

  7. So sorry to read. My heart goes out to you Amelia. Praying you heal up well and in Gods perfect timing that you will be back out there soon. I love reading your blog and I was looking forward to WTM 2013 posts. Your quick recovery is in my prayers! On a side note I just started participating in Obstacle Course Races in the past two years and the Nebraska Spartan Sprint was my first time participating in a Spartan Race and I loved it. Thinking about being out on the same course as you was really cool. You are totally one of my heros!

  8. Amelia, just take care of yourself. Don't worry about people will think of you. All good athletes get injured and nobody thinks any less of them and nobody thinks any less of you. If anybody does then they are a moron and don't understand how fitness works.

    Kenenisa Bekele tore his calf muscle a few years back and he's made a full recovery and has recently defeated Mo Farah in a half-marathon. You too can and will make a full recovery. Just take it easy and undergo all the treatment that's needed for your injury.

  9. I feel bad you are going through this pain. I can relate and have simliar injuries. I hope they can find the trigger that is causing this and also a speedy recovery.
    I do not run mud races but I think its great that you are still going to volunteer. I think you will have a different perspective having to watch sidelined and it will make you appreciate your health and sport so much more.
    I also think the community will be happy to have you there no matter what.

    Best of luck on recovery!

  10. Read the profile of you in Outside yesterday (I'm behind) and what caught my eye was the "corporate bankruptcy attorney" occupation. Amazing that you find the time to train while working at Skadden. Keep it up!

    - former restructuring attorney, now in-house and I like to ride bikes

  11. Amelia, back to normal shape yet? Wish you the best.